RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge Review: Doctor in Petticoats, by Mary Connealy

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Title: Doctor in Petticoats
Author: Mary Connealy
Publication Info: Barbour Books 2010
ISBN: 9781602601468
Genre: Historical: American

RITA®, and the RITA statuette are service marks of Romance Writers of America, Inc. Steph tried out this inspirational romance for the RITA® Reader Challenge, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Book CoverHere is the plot summary: What happens when an idealistic student nurse encounters an embittered army doctor in a stagecoach accident? How will she react when she learns her training didn’t prepare her for tragic reality? How will he, an army deserter, respond to needs when he vowed to never touch another patient? Can these two stubborn mules find common ground on which to work and bring healing to West Texas? And now, Steph’s review:

I am a huge inspirational romance fan, but there were several (okay slightly more than several) times that I nearly gave up on Doctor in Petticoats. Honestly, had it not been on the old Kindle, I would have probably thrown it across the room a time or two. This makes me sad, because the title gave me such hope that we’d be rehashing Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman (God, I love you Sully), which is so my idea of a good time. Alas it was not to be.

Our beautiful, plucky, shoots-better-than-most-men-and-can-hold-her-own-on-the-range-with-any-cowboy heroine, freshly back from YEARS at a fancy East Coast medical school decides within just a chapter or two that this crazy dream of hers of being a doctor is best left to the menfolk. Her evidence for that? A war-weary Army vet/doctor, scarred by his time in the military who attaches himself quickly to our heroine and uses her “strength” (which I gather has something to do with looking in her eyes) to get past the pain and perform medical procedures. After seeing his ability with a scalpel (when she’s staring at him of course) she decides to “just be his nurse” as his ability is far superior to anything her womanly hands can manage, even though she just graduated medical school and he’s been wandering AWOL, not practicing medicine for years.

And as if it can’t get any better, the author’s sets up for her next novel with an incredibly frustrating subplot about our heroine’s sister, who marries and procreates with a lazy, delusional creep whom she refuses to leave because a girl’s gotta stand by her man. Alas, I am certain that we will have to wait until a great and tragic death falls upon creepy husband before she can move on to the hot, hardworking pioneer man that has appeared by the novel’s end. But that is a plot left best to book two.


Doctor in Petticoats is available from Amazon | Kindle | BN | nookBook Depository | Powells | WORD Brooklyn

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  1. 1
    nekobawt says:

    good god. uh. no pun intended i guess?

    for some reason i’m getting flashbacks to the guy who tried to sell the concept of marriage to me as an opportunity to learn true subservience*. SO WEIRDED OUT. what is it about that “pfft who needs dreams and life plans when you can get a HUSBAND” outlook?

    *conversationally. it wasn’t a proposal or anything which is good cuz his wife and 2 teenage daughters were in the room, so it really wouldn’t have worked out at all well. plus he was a perfect stranger.

  2. 2
    E.D. Walker says:

    This makes me sad, because the title gave me such hope that we’d be rehashing Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman (God, I love you Sully), which is so my idea of a good time.

    Me too! Sully yum.

  3. 3
    cleo says:

    Great review Steph.  Thanks for taking one for the team.  I’m not a big inspirational romance fan, but I like frontier type romances and I was kind of interested in this one.  Thanks for saving me from that impulse.  I don’t do “give up your dream for your man” romances – ugh.  Not romantic.

  4. 4
    Karen says:

    Dear Ms. Connealy: the 1950s called; they want their romance back.

  5. 5
    StarOpal says:

    I read Connealy’s Gingham Mountain. While the plot line wasn’t as inherently icky as the whole ‘give up your dreams’ thing, I found it a really, truly frustrating read due to writing and execution.

    Now a Dr. Quinn-esque story? I’d be all over that!
    *Le sigh*

  6. 6
    JoyK says:

    *Sigh* Hey, did they give this woman a lobotomy along with her medical diploma. Since when was it decreeded that heroines in inspirational novels can’t have lives, passionate interests and goals, AND still have faith and a love interest.  Just because the h & h aren’t jumping into bed together doesn’t mean that we’ve time travelled back to the olden days when healthy awareness of the opposite sex was seen as evil. 

    Since when was restraint and respect for each other, thrown out as a motive for not rushing into bed without throwing out sincere passion for each other also. Please, please let’s have an inspirational romance that truely inspires.  See each other as desireable, loveable but rather unselfishly wait until the relationship is established, a committment made and the community made aware of this committment (which is what marriage is).

  7. 7
    wonderlandchick says:

    I’m a librarian and I am responsible for selecting fiction.  I have not read this, but based on the book description, maybe you’d enjoy That Certain Spark by Cathy Marie Hake.  Here’s Publisher’s Weekly’s description:
    Against a backdrop of male chauvinist prejudice and smalltown small-mindedness, twins Enoch and his sister Taylor Bestman, veterinarian and medical doctor respectively, arrive in Gooding, Tex., with the best of intentions. What they find is a great deal of anti-female sentiment when it’s discovered that Taylor, the new medical doctor, is a woman. Determined to prove herself, Taylor takes on whatever the little town can throw at her and slowly wins over most of the people’s affections, including that of a stubborn blacksmith who views medicine as an inappropriate profession for a woman.

    This might help cleanse your palate.

  8. 8
    LG says:

    Aw, darn. I didn’t automatically think “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” when I read the title of this book, but I certainly didn’t think she’d crumble and decide to be a nurse within a few chapters.

    I think I’ve only ever read two inspirational romance novels, both by the same author, Deeanne Gist. One of these days, I’ll try out other authors, but I’ll probably use “similar to Gist” as my starting point, because I’ve liked her stuff so far, and her “God stuff” doesn’t feel tacked on or over-the-top to a heathen like me.

  9. 9
    AgTigress says:

    So, wait a moment, in what year is this story set?  I am trying to reconcile the existence of stagecoaches chronologically with medical schools that admitted female students.

    In the UK it was not until the 1870s at the earliest that women were allowed to enter the universities, and even then, it was a while before they were allowed actually to take degrees, medical or otherwise.  I think there was a handful of female doctors here by about 1910.  But stagecoach services here had ceased by about the middle of the 19th century, being replaced for long-distance journeys by the railways. 

    Perhaps it was all different in the USA.  The one American college I know well was founded as a women’s college in 1883, so the dating on higher education for women is similar to ours.  Maybe you just had stagecoaches much later than we did.

  10. 10
    LG says:

    I’m getting my information from Wikipedia, so I have no idea if it’s actually true or not, but according to Wikipedia’s article on stagecoaches, they were in use in the U.S. from 1890 to the late 1920s.

  11. 11
    LG says:

    ::sigh:: By which I mean, their use was starting to be discontinued between 1890 to the late 1920s. Must think my wording through better.

  12. 12
    AgTigress says:

    Thanks.  So this novel is set when, do you reckon?  Around 1900?

    I don’t know why I am worrying about it, since it is definitely one I don’t wish to read!

    :-)

  13. 13
    Sandra says:

    @AgTigress:

    So, wait a moment, in what year is this story set?

    I haven’t read this, but from the description, it sounds like the post-Civil War US West; so, yes, there would have been stagecoaches, but probably not female doctors. The male doctor even sounds improbable to me. I haven’t researched it, but I would imagine that military doctors during the War would have been commissioned officers. So, no need to desert, with all that entails—like firing squads. All he needed to do was resign his commission.

    Am I the only one who couldn’t stand Dr. “Too Perfect to be Real” Quinn?

  14. 14
    Rebecca says:

    @AgTigress – Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from the Geneva Medical College in 1849.  In 1857 she and her younger sister Emily (also an MD), and Dr. Marie Zakrezewska founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children (currently the New York Downtown Hospital).  She was a pioneer in the fields of public health, and disease prevention, especially in urban slum areas, and was also especially interested in women’s health (and by extension reproductive health, although she tried to avoid that extremely touchy subject, as she avoided wearing “bloomers” in spite of the freedom they offered, and the active suffragist movement, focusing on breaking one barrier at a time).  I did a paper on Blackwell in high school and was shocked to discover that the only biographies of her are aimed at children.  She is completely unjustly forgotten, not only as the first female MD in the US, but also as the founder of a clinic which remains extremely reputable in New York City.

    So female doctors and stage coaches are perfectly compatible.  What is NOT remotely plausible is that one of the handful of women who endured the hazing to which early female doctors were subjected decide on a whim to give up everything she had fought and suffered for.  Never mind the implied insult to the nursing profession in “just being his nurse” at a time when Florence Nightingale was fighting tooth and nail to raise the prestige of nursing (something early female doctors were quite supportive of, by and large).

    Thanks for taking one for the team, Steph.  If you would like some brain bleach, I’d recommend Frances Murray’s *The Burning Lamp* about a young woman who has trained with Florence Nightingale who ends up going to the American West to avoid an unwanted marriage.  There’s a war-scarred sheriff, and a great Western setting, but the book is super-cool, and insults neither nurses nor doctors.

    As a final side-note: Why is this doctor in PETTICOATS?  Can’t she be bothered to put on skirts?  For inspirational romance this sounds like the original slutty nurse fantasy!  (I’m trying to think of a contemporary equivalent….Doctor in Chemise?  Doctor in Slip?  Doctor in Bra?)

  15. 15
    LG says:

    @AgTigress – Whatever the book may be like, this is leading to some interesting nonfiction reading. Again, from Wikipedia, it looks like the first women’s medical school in both the U.S. and the world was founded in 1850. It was called the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and looks to have been a way for women to get around not being allowed to attend medical schools already in existence.

    So, unless there are a few more details in the actual book, it looks like it may be tough to say when it took place. It could have been earlier than 1900.

  16. 16
    LG says:

    @Rebecca – You wrote, “What is NOT remotely plausible is that one of the handful of women who endured the hazing to which early female doctors were subjected decide on a whim to give up everything she had fought and suffered for.”

    Agreed. The heroine of this book should have had a spine of steel.

    Maybe the book would have worked better if the hero and heroine had decided to work side by side, with the heroine teaching the hero the things she’d learned and the hero adding greater practical experience to the mix?

  17. 17
    Donna says:

    Damn, I actually knew something relevant and Rebecca & LG beat me to it!
    And @nekobawt: The “pastor” @ the church my bff was attending at the time caught us in McDonald’s & took up a good 45 minutes of our precious Friday night proselytizing on women’s roles & how lust was one of the best ways to choose a spouse. We were 16. I suggested he might want to explain that to my dad when he came to pick us up. Major sceeve out.
    He also mentioned how his wife used to be a Catholic like me, but was now a righteous Baptist. I told him God hates a quiter. Thankfully the bff left his church after he showed up at her house trying to recruit her mom.

  18. 18
    AgTigress says:

    Thanks, everyone.  The Wiki stagecoach article needs a lot of work, incidentally — as a Wikipedia editor, I can tell, even though I don’t know about stagecoaches as such.  It hasn’t even been graded, but seems to me to be a start-class article that requires a lot more detail and more references.

    Rebecca:  very interesting information about Elizabeth Blackwell.  Why don’t you do a biography of her?  Sounds as though she absolutely deserves one.

    I think ‘petticoat’ was sometimes used (in British English at least)  in the 18th/early 19thC to refer to female costume generally, not specifically to underskirts, and by extension, just meant ‘a female person’; just as in the mid-20thC (British) men would sometimes refer in a derogatory way to a woman as ‘a skirt’.  I think the title may be using ‘in petticoats’ as an equivalent to ‘in female clothing’, if that sense existed or exists in AE.

  19. 19
    Sherri says:

    I love Mary Connealy. She’s smart and funny, just like her heroines. Her books are inspirational, without being preachy. There are always certain ‘stereotypes’ it’s difficult to escape from when writing historical fiction. Things that existed that people assume didn’t, things they did in Little House on the Prairie that may have stretched historical accuracy…I thought she did a fine job of researching the book. I wish the reviewer had enjoyed the book more, but that’s the wonderful part about reading—there’s something for everyone!

  20. 20
    Lara Amber says:

    lol, God hates a quitter.  I had to bite my lip to keep from giggling at work.

  21. 21
    P. Kirby says:

    Am I the only one who couldn’t stand Dr. “Too Perfect to be Real” Quinn?

    Uh, no.  But I’m not a fan of fuzzy-wuzzy, family-friendly television shows. I used to call Touch by an Angel, Inappropriately Touched by an Angel.

  22. 22
    bookstorecat says:

    @P.Kirby

    I have heard it referred to as Groped By An Angel many times. I live in a heathen place.

  23. 23
    bookstorecat says:

    Also, if I accidentally refer to a show called Dr. Quinn: Medicine Bosoms, I must again point to the heathen.

  24. 24
    SusannaG says:

    I think there are several children’s bios of Elizabeth Blackwell (I remember reading one growing up in the 70s).  Not sure about regular biographies for adults.

    She’s a very interesting figure.

  25. 25
    Liz says:

    This makes me sad, because the title gave me such hope that we’d be rehashing Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman (God, I love you Sully), which is so my idea of a good time.

    Me too! Sully yum.

    Make that 3.  I was really young when the show aired—around 5 or so, but i loved Sully.  Whenever the repeats aired, i had to watch because i would get to see them together.  Actually, i was just thinking about Dr. Quinn the other day because i found out that it now airs of Gospel Music Channel.

  26. 26
    Anony Miss says:

    @wonderlandchick, thanks for the recommendation!

    I in turn would recommend the recently free on Kindle “A Tailor-Made Bride” by Witemire, which I thoroughly enjoyed for the heroine’s refusal to back down from her chosen (albeit feminine) profession, and how the hero was able to admit his total wrongness for wanting her to do so.

  27. 27
    Diva says:

    I, too, swoon for Sully. And I’m pretty sure Dr. Quinn would have made an Improving Speech to reform the misguided heroine of this rot.

    I loved your review because this definitely sounds like something I would have read. Thank goodness I didn’t because I would’ve chucked the misogynistic drivel as soon as the wee helpless woman renounced her life’s work of becoming a physician. BLAH!

  28. 28
    Earthgirl says:

    I just want to know, if she just graduated from medical school, why does the biography refer to her as a student nurse?

    Sounds like one I’ll skip.

  29. 29
    Steph says:

    @earthgirl,  I went back and reread (guh) the first few chapters of the novel and discovered a little conversation between the heroine and her father in which he tells her she can’t be the town doc (in fact she might can do some midwifing, if her momma comes along).  They then proceed to argue over what type of training (he claims nursing, she claims doctor) she’s spent the last four years working on.  In the end either the heroine is confused as to what she did or has delusions of grandeur as all I remember talking about is being a doctor.
    (sorry I’m a little late to the party, just got settled into my FOB in Iraq)

  30. 30
    Clare says:

    As a final side-note: Why is this doctor in PETTICOATS?  Can’t she be bothered to put on skirts?  For inspirational romance this sounds like the original slutty nurse fantasy!  (I’m trying to think of a contemporary equivalent….Doctor in Chemise?  Doctor in Slip?  Doctor in Bra?)

    This series is a follow-up series to Connealy’s “Petticoat Ranch.”  Petticoat Ranch was about Sophie Edwards-McClellen… Doctor in Petticoats and its sequels are about Sophie’s daughters. 

    So, wait a moment, in what year is this story set?

    As I recall, Petticoat Ranch took place shortly after the end of the Civil War, so I imagine that this “Sophie’s Daughters” series must take place in the mid-1880s.

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